Board and Batten Siding
Board and Batten Siding
Years ago my wife and I stayed in a cozy Northern California vacation cottage. The cottage was small, charming and had the perfect barn modern look and feel. That trip was a big part of our inspiration to buy our own cabin. Years later, after we did buy a cabin, we couldn’t wait to add some of that same charm to our cabin by adding traditional board and batten exterior siding.
Board and batten siding is a terrific exterior siding technique. Not only it is the perfect rustic modern look, but it’s easy to install, relatively low cost and very durable. And installing board and batten siding is surprisingly straightforward and within the scope of most do-it-yourselfer’s. Read on for a bit of background and a step by step how-to on installing exterior board and batten siding on your home or cabin.
What is and How to Board and Batten
Board and batten siding has its roots in Norway and Sweden, where it was originally used to protect the exterior of log buildings. In the United States, the siding became popular on homes and barns in the West during the mid to late 1800s.
Today, board and batten siding has regained popularity in the United States do it part to the rise of modern rustic, barn-modern architecture.
So, what exactly is board and batten siding? Board and batten is a fairly simple exterior siding system of gapped wide vertical siding boards with narrow overlying vertical battens to cover the gaps. The technique is time-tested, durable, easy to repair and allows for the natural expansion and contraction of the siding material.
While traditional board and batten siding uses wide boards and overlying narrow battens, there are multiple variations of the conventional narrow over wide technique. Reverse board and batten or batten and board, for example, installs wide boards over narrow battens. Board and board alternates overlapping wide boards with no battens.
This article describes traditional board and batten – that is, wide boards with overlying narrow battens.
Traditional board and batten siding described in layered steps:
- Install wide vertical boards (typically 6″ to 12″) – space 1/2″ to 1″ between boards to allow natural movement between boards and allow room for the batten fasteners to pass between boards.
- Install overlying battens (typically 2″ to 4″) – battens cover the gaps between the boards and hold the edges of the boards down.
When installing the wide vertical boards, space boards at a distance of approximately one board width (7/8″) and secure with fasteners placed at the center of the siding boards. Central fasteners allow boards to expand and contract without bowing or splitting (see diagram below). Next, cover the gaps created by spaced boards with battens secured using centered fasteners that pass through the gaps between the underlying wide boards without passing through the boards. The battens cover the gaps of the wide boards and hold down their edges. Batten fasteners should not pass through the underlying board edges as this would restrict expansion and contraction and risk splitting of the underlying boards.
Board and batten siding fastening diagrammed:
The Nitty Gritty of Board and Batten Siding
Installing board and batten siding, or any style of vertical siding, presents the challenges of fastening vertical siding boards to vertically framed stud walls.
Boards installed up and down (vertically) do not regularly intersect stud framing members like horizontally installed boards do. This issue was traditionally solved by adding horizontal framing pieces between studs called blocking.
While this method works, installing blocking is a lot of work and may be impractical for remodeling work. Blocking also reduces the space in the wall cavity for insulation and can make it hard to run wires and plumbing in walls.
Alternatively, you can use screws and fasten the siding directly to the wall sheathing if the sheathing is plywood or OSB and sufficiently thick – 1/2″ for plywood or 23/32″ for OSB. If using nails to fasten your siding and would like to nail directly into sheathing, you will need a wood sheathing material of at least 1 1/4″ thick (like sold pine boards).
The existing original sheathing on our cabin was a dense cellulose fiberboard, limiting my options to installing horizontal blocking or removing the fiberboard sheathing and installing plywood or OSB.
I chose to remove the fiberboard and install 3/4″ plywood sheathing. The thicker plywood sheathing allowed me to fasten the board and batten siding directly to the plywood sheathing and the plywood provided a big structural upgrade for my walls.
Oriented Strand Board (aka OSB) could also be used as sheathing under the board and batten siding. OSB tends to have lower fastener holding strength compared to plywood, so if you choose OSB for sheathing, I would recommend using a thicker material – at least 23/32″ for sufficient screw holding strength.
With the exterior sheathing upgraded to plywood, I used deck screws to fasten the siding boards directly into the sheathing , eliminating the need to hit framing studs. Screws work well and can be used instead of nails as long as the underlying plywood is of 1/2″ or greater thickness (or 23/32″ for OSB). Nails will also work, but you will need much thicker sheathing or nailing directly into blocked framing for sufficient hold.
Fastener Details for Board and Batten Siding Install
|fasten into||at least 1 1/4″ solid wood (studs)||at least 1/2″ plywood or 23/32″ OSB|
|fastener grade||exterior grade – stainless, coated or galvanized||exterior grade – stainless, coated or galvanized|
|fastener style||siding: spiral or ring shank||flat head coarse thread|
|fastener length (boards)||siding thickness + 1 1/2″||siding thickness + 3/4″|
|fastener length (battens)||batten + siding thickness + 1 1/2″||batten + siding thickness + 3/4″|
If using nails to fasten your siding, use exterior grade nails designed specifically for installing wood siding. Use exterior grade ring-shank or spiral shank style nails for siding.
Nails should also be compatible with the specific wood species you are using. Some woods will react with certain fasteners causing discoloration at the fastener site. Stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized nails are typically the best choices.
Many siding nails will have specially designed tips to help prevent splitting of the siding. Nails will need to be long enough to pass through the siding and into a solid wood substrate at least 1 1/4″.
Typical nails for one-inch thick siding are 2 1/2″ long and 3 to 3 1/2″ long for battens. Remember to add length for any material (like furring strips or rain screen mat) between the siding and sheathing.
If you use screws as I did, look for an exterior grade screw (stainless or coated) compatible with the wood species you will be using. Most deck screws will work well. I used DeckMate deck screws (green color) purchased locally from the Home Depot.
Screws need to be long enough to pass through the siding and into a suitable (solid wood, plywood or OSB) sheathing substrate of sufficient thickness. If using screws, the screws should penetrate 1/4″ or more through the sheathing. Fastener lengths can be calculated by adding the thickness of the siding boards and sheathing + 1/4″ plus the thickness of any material (rain screen membrane or furring strips) between the siding and the sheathing.
For my project, I added the following materials to determine my screw lengths:
- 7/8″ thick siding material (1″ material)
- 1/4″ rain screen membrane (under siding airspace membrane)
- 3/4″ plywood sheathing
- 1/4″ fastener penetration depth through sheathing
- 2 1/8″ thickness total for boards (single siding board) and 3″ for battens (double siding board thickness)
After adding the above, the recommended length of fasteners for the boards (first siding layer) was 2 1/8″ and 3″ for the battens which are stacked on top of the boards. Because the screws would be just slightly countersunk, I settled on 2″ screws for the 2 1/8″ fastener length for the boards and 3″ for the battens.
Screw Length and Size for My Board and Batten Siding Install
Siding boards: DeckMate 2″ #8 Star bit flat-head deck screws
Batten boards: DeckMate 3″ #9 Star bit flat-head deck screws
If you are planning on using nails, they should look something like ones below; either hot dipped galvanized steel or stainless steel.
Choosing a Material for Your Siding
Board and batten siding can be constructed from a variety of materials. Wood, engineered wood products, fiber cement boards, and polymer (vinyl) products are all suitable for board and batten. Of these, fiber cement boards and wood are excellent choices, and both have advantages and disadvantages.
Fiber cement board products (HardiePanel, etc.) have the advantages of concrete; low maintenance, long life, dimensional stability and moisture and fire resistance.
Natural wood boards have the advantages of wood; natural beauty, the ability to take a stain, improved sound and thermal insulation and easy of cutting and installation.
Cement board products also have the disadvantages of concrete; heavy weight, difficult to cut and install, silica dust formation when cutting, and an artificial look.
Wood products have the disadvantages of wood; dimensional instability, tenancy to crack or split, need for repeat staining, susceptibility to woodpeckers, insects and rot, and the lack of fire resistance.
I chose natural cedar for my board and batten siding. The natural beauty of wood and the durability of cedar made it an easy choice for me. Unfortunately, of late, the price of natural cedar may make this material cost prohibitive. Other, locally milled wood species may be more cost friendly.
No matter the type of wood you choose, all natural wood products are susceptible to moisture and rot. While several species of wood have naturally enhanced protection against moisture and decay, most will benefit from the protection of an applied stain or paint.
If you plan to paint or stain your siding, consider finishing all six sides (front, back and both ends) prior to installing them. Finishing only the exposed surfaces of installed siding allows moisture to the unfinished surfaces of the boards. In addition, if you plan to use a solid color stain or paint, a base primer coat may be benefical. Some paints and stains perform well without a primer, but even with these products, most will benefit from more than one coat of finish and/or starting with a primer coat.
Properly applied finishes take time. Applying a coat or two of primer, allowing it to dry and then applying a coat or two of finish is a long process. Not only is this time-consuming, but the quality of the finish is very dependent on the conditions, tools, products and process used to apply any primer or finish.
So, how can you improve the quality of your finish and save tons of time? Buy your wood siding prefinished.
Yes, it may cost more (maybe), but for many of us, the time saved and quality of the finish is worth the additional cost. I found the price of ordering prefinished fairly competitive with the cost of what I could get the unfinished wood for locally. My cost for 1″ x 10″ knotty western red cedar in mixed 8′ and 16′ lengths was less than $2.50 / lineal ft (this was late 2011, long before our trade issues with Canada)!
Locally, the price of cedar boards was very similar to the price of my prefinished material. That was in 2011 – 2012. I haven’t priced prefinished material lately, but even if it is priced a buck or so a foot more, the convenience and quality benefits may be well worth the additional cost.
It is hard to overstate just how awesome it was to receive my shipment of factory finished wood and simply start putting it up.
Ordering prefinished material saves a ton of time, and the siding is sealed with a professionally applied, factory finish. You still should prime and paint field cut ends, but that’s easy. The supplier I ordered from also recommends a field coat of finish over the exposed surfaces after the product is installed. Again, a fairly easy step – especially when compared to painting rough cedar from scratch. The field coat of finish also seals your fasteners, enhancing durability of the siding.
For this project, I ordered prefinished cedar boards from Cedar Shingles Direct of Wyoming, Michigan. Their factory applies a Cabot finish of your choice – for us a latex solid stain applied over a solvent base primer. The product was shipped via semi-trailer truck and arrived well packed, undamaged and ready to install. The quality of the finish on the wood was exceptional. I highly recommend them.
Consider Adding a Vented Rainscreen Under Your New Siding
Prior to installing your siding, consider upgrading your exterior wall assembly to a rainscreen style wall by adding a vented air space (also referred to as a “air chamber”) to the exterior wall build. A rainscreen is a system of wall building to help control moisture within the wall assembly.
Rainscreen walls separate the weather resistant barrier (house wrap, asphalt felt, etc.) from the siding boards allowing the wall assembly to “breathe”, and helps to prevent moisture damage and mold within your exterior walls. The rainscreen wall detail is a newer approach to help avoid water problems within walls – problems all too common with modern air-tight construction materials and techniques.
Traditional exterior wall construction, known as “redundant barrier” construction, relies on a sealed siding material and a second, “redundant” water barrier (often asphalt felt, a.k.a “tar paper”) directly under the siding. This style of wall construction worked well with older, more air permeable home construction and was typical of residential construction for most of the last century.
Unfortunately, redundant barrier techniques coupled with newer “airtight” construction and the growing use of synthetic house wraps, is prone to water trapping and rot and mold problems. In reality, all exterior walls will eventually leak, and rainscreen wall construction techniques provides a way form them to dry when they do.
Building Walls That Dry
Rain screen wall construction originated in Norway as a method to protect exterior walls from driving rains. Walls constructed in this way not only protect the inner wall from weather but are designed to dry out if wet.
Vented rain screen walls allow penetrated water to drain down out of the wall and air to freely flow up the cavity, drying of the wall assembly. The air space also provides a pressure and capillary break within the wall, interrupting water movement through the wall.
Building a rain screen wall system requires a bit of additional work when compared to traditional techniques, but the reward is long lasting, healthy exterior walls.
To construct a vented rain screen wall, simply add a vented air space between the redundant barrier – that is the weather resistant barrier (WRB) and siding. See the layers below:
Redunant Barrier Wall Layers vs. Rain Screen Wall Layers
TRADITIONAL REDUNDANT BARRIER WALL: framing | sheathing | weather-resistant barrier | siding
RAIN SCREEN WALL: framing | sheathing | weather-resistant barrier | vented air space | siding
The air space in a rain screen wall system is the key to the rain screen wall. This space creates a pressure break within the wall, allows water to drain and promotes air movement and drying within the wall.
This air space within the rain screen wall can be created by a variety of methods:
- furring strips
- rain screen spacer mats
- textured house wraps
Furring strips are thin strips of wood, or other material that are installed vertically to lift the siding off the weather-proof barrier covered sheathing. Furring strips can be created using 1/4″ or thicker material cut from sheathing, or other, or you can use one of the many manufactured products. Furring strips work well with horizontally installed siding (and therefore not well with board and batten siding). Some manufacturers create a vented furring strip intended to be installed horizontally, allowing for easy use with vertical siding.
Rain screen spacer mats provide another method of creating a vented airspace. These mats create a permeable three-dimensional mat that allow air and water to move through the mat while providing spacing between the WRB and siding material.
I used a spacer mat product by Keene called Driwall Rainscreen 020-1 for this project. The Keene product provides a 1/4″ airspace and is installed on top of your weather resistant barrier under the siding.
In addition to helping to keep walls dry, rain screen wall construction can help protect your weather-resistant barrier (WRB). Many weather-resistant barriers degrade after exposure to certain tannins and wood extracts. Separating the WRB from the siding boards via a rain-screen wall design may help limit contact of the two.
Textured or Wrinkled House Wraps. Certain specially house wraps are also marketed to serve as an all-in-one WRB and air space, but many will not provide the same air space as furring strips or rainscreen mats.
A summery of the layers I used to build my exterior wall (from inside to out):
- 2×4 studs 16″ oc
- R-13 Fibergalss batt insulation
- 3/4 Plywood (CDX exposure 1)
- 30# builders felt (roofing felt)
- Driwall Rainscreen mat by Keene
- Cedar board and batten siding
If you are interested in reading more about the details of building a vented rain screen exterior wall please see my article “How and Why to Build a Rainscreen Wall”.
Plan for the Install of Your New Board and Batten Siding
Once you have settled on the details of your wall reconstruction and installed the weather resistant barrier and optional vented air space, the final task is to install the siding boards.
To install your siding, you will need sufficient access to your walls. Ladders work, but scaffolding may work better. If you can, borrow, rent or buy some scaffolding for the project. Scaffolding will give you a safe, stable platform to work from and is generally safer than ladders or ladders with planks.
In addition to material and ladders or scaffolding, will need to gather all necessary tools and organize your work site. For my project, I found it best to set up a few specific stations for individual tasks. Although you can install siding by yourself, as I did, a helper is great.
To organize my work site, I had made one station for measuring, and cutting the boards, and another station for marking and starting the fasteners – I preinstalled the screws before putting the siding boards on the wall. I found having several small areas for each task allowed me to keep my tools organized and my workflow efficient.
As for your siding material, plan ahead. If using wood, your stock should have time to acclimate to your job site. And, as discussed above, I highly recommend having your siding material painted or stained prior to putting them up.
For most of my material, it was already primed and stained as I ordered it factory finished (I highly recommend doing this!). I did, however, need some additional material that I had to prime and finish myself. I used the weekends prior to the start of the install to prime, finish and allow finished boards to dry.
Then, with the material finished and ready to install, I simply prime sealed the cut ends prior to installation. After the boards had been installed, I finished the entire surface with a final field coat of finish. Read on for a step-by-step on my board and batten siding install.
How to Install Board and Batten Siding
Preparation and Materials
Board and Batten Siding – Project Overview
- Level: Intermediate
- Time: Days to Weeks
- Cost: $2 – $6+ per sq ft of wall
- Materials: Siding boards and battens, trim boards, flashing, fasteners, finish
- Optional Materials: new sheathing, WRB, rainscreen materials
How to Install Board and Batten Siding – Project Big Picture
- Remove old siding, flashing and trim.
- Remove old weather resistant barrier (if replacing).
- Remove old sheathing (if replacing).
- Replace sheathing (if replacing).
- Replace weather resistant barrier (if replacing).
- Install rainscreen mat or furring (optional, but recommended).
- Install skirt board and drip flashing at base of wall.
- Install spaced wide horizontal siding boards.
- Install top (frieze) and window trim boards.
- Install narrow horizontal battens to cover horizontal siding board gaps.
- Apply final field coat of finish (optional).
Materials – Board and Batten Siding Install
|Item||What I used||Cost|
|Prefinished Cedar – siding boards||Prestained Cedar 1″x10″ in Cabot Solid dark slate||$2 – 4 / ln ft|
|Prefinished Cedar – siding battens||Prestained Cedar 1″x3″ in Cabot Solid dark slate||$1 – 2 / ln ft|
|Prefinished Cedar – trim||Prestained Cedar 1″x4″ in Cabot Solid ultra white||$1 – 2 / ln ft|
|Screws for Boards||$25 / 5 lb|
|Screws for Battens||$25 / 5 lb|
|Screws for Trim||$65 / 10 lb|
|Siding Primer||$36 / gal|
|Siding Stain||$36 / gal|
|Flashing Tape||$43 / 75′ roll|
Tools / Supplies for Board and Batten Siding
Additional Materials and Tools if Planning on Wall Rebuild (insulation, sheathing, WRB, rainscreen)
Additional Materials for Wall Rebuild
|Item||What I used||Cost|
|Insulation||$60 / 105 sf|
|Sheathing||$25 / 4′ x 8′|
|Asphalt Felt||$30 / 216 sf|
|Rainscreen Mat||$150 / 150 sf|
|Cap Nails||$24 / 2000|
|Flashing Tape||$25 / 100′ roll|
|Framing Nails||$65 / 3600|
Board and Batten Siding, How-To Step-by-Step
- Order Materials and Supplies, Organize Tools.
Plan for your project by ordering the necessary materials and supplies. I ordered by cedar siding boards from Michigan PreStain. The process took several weeks and required shipping from Michigan to my site in Minnesota, so plan ahead if you will be pre-ordering material.
If using local material, order and purchase the material early enough to give yourself time to acclimate the material and possibly apply a coat of primer and finish prior to installing.
Order any other materials you plan to use prior to your planned install. I used 3/4″ plywood and R-13 fiberglass batt insulation that I ordered and had delivered from my local Home Depot.
- Consider Prefinishing Siding Material.
If you are not purchasing a prefinished siding product, consider painting or staining your material prior to installing it. At the very least prime the backs of the boards prior to putting them up if you plan to finish them once installed.
Most of my material was ordered prefinished from Michigan Pre-stain, but I did need additional material that I purchased from a local lumber yard.
For the local lumber yard material, I did prefinish the siding by first applying a solvent-based primer coat and two additional latex finish coats. I had done this the weekend before I installed the siding, allowing it to dry prior to installing the boards.
Painting or staining all six sides of the siding boards provides the best protection for the boards and may help prevent negative interactions between your weatherproof barrier (house wrap, asphalt felt, etc.) and extracts and tannins from your siding boards.
Extracts from siding boards, especially cedar, can degrade house wraps and their water resistance. Sealing the backside of siding boards can limit the amount of extracts house wraps are exposed to.
- Remove Old Siding and Remove / Replace Sheathing, Weather Resistant Barrier as Needed
First, removal old siding (if present). Use a flat shovel, flat pry bar or similar to remove old siding and fasteners. Once the siding is removed remove and replace the weather resistant barrier. You could leave the existing weather resistant barrier, but in a vast majority of cases it makes sense to remove and replace it.
Depending on the type and condition of your exterior wall sheathing, you may wish to remove and replace this as well. This is a larger job, but might be desirable if you plan to insulate the wall cavity or upgrade the sheathing for screw fastening (at least 1/2″ solid wood or plywood or at least 5/8″ OSB for screw fastening of siding boards).
My existing sheathing was a dense cellulose sheathing marketed in the 1950’s as an insulating wall board. I removed it, added fiberglass batt insulation and closed the wall with 3/4″ plywood. I then replaced the weather resistant barrier with #30 asphalt felt (tar paper). Finally I installed Keene Driwall rainscreen mat to provide a rainscreen air space. Next, on to installing the siding.
- Plan Siding Install.
With all the preliminary work completed, plan for the installation of your board and batten siding. The general order of my board and batten project was as follows:
Install weather-proof barrier, and rainscreen (see rainscreen wall article for more details)
1. Install sheathing, weather-resistant barrier.
2. Install peel and stick window flashing.
3. Install rainscreen spacer mat.
Install board and batten siding and trim
1. Install 10″ x 1″ water table (skirt board) at base of wall.
2. Install drip flashing on top edge of skirt board.
2. Install 10″ x 1″ vertical siding boards from top of water board drip flashing to top of wall spaced ~ 1″ apart.
3. Install 3″ x 1″ border trim at top of siding. Top gap for rainscreen ventilation (optional).
4. Install 4″ x 1″ window and door trim (casing).
5. Install 3″ x 1″ vertical siding battens over siding board gaps.
6. Install 4″ x 1″ corner trim (optional).
7. Apply field coat of finish.
The above is an overview of the entire process. Before putting up boards, you will first need to plan for board selection, layout, and fastener use. The next two steps will briefly discuss these issues before we begin with the siding install.
- Prepare for Siding Install by Planning the Board Spacing and Layout for Siding Install.
For traditional board and batten siding, boards are installed first. These boards are spaced to allow for natural expansion and contraction of the siding material. The correct amount of spacing depends on the material you are using, but, in general, should be great enough to allow for board movement yet narrow enough to be sufficiently covered with installed battens.
Using 10″ wide boards and 3″ wide battens for our siding, we used a ~ 7/8″ gap between boards. This just so happens to be the thickness of the 1″ material we were using, so scrap pieces of material worked well to gap the boards.
When deciding how much spacing to have between the boards, consider the material you are using (wood, cement board, etc.) and the amount of expected expansion and contraction of that material. Obviously, wood will have much more movement compared to cement board.
In addition, consider the width of the battens you would like to use. Narrower battens will obviously require a narrower gap between boards. To get an idea of the needed width for the battens, consider the main functions of the battens: 1) cover the gaps between boards 2) to hold down the edges of the boards they are installed over.
Battens, in general, should be wide enough to cover the planned gap plus at least 3/4″ overlap on each side of the gap. For my install; a 1″ board gap plus the 3/4″ edge overlaps which equals 2 1/2″. The actual width of 1″ x 3″ lumber is 2 1/2″ – exactly the width I needed.
So, for my board and batten siding, I used; 1″ x 3″ battens over 1″ x 10″ boards spaced 1″ apart.
No matter what width of boards you plan to use, most do not recommend using battens that are less than 3″ nominal width (1″ x 3″ boards).
When using 1 x 3″ lumber for the battens, the actual width of the battens is only 2 1/2″. This doesn’t leave a lot of overlap of the boards, especially if your batten boards are not very straight.
Some warping and twists can be straightened when installing the battens, but if too much correction is attempted battens can split or crack. Most will use 1″ x 3″ or 1″ x 4″ boards for battens.
- Prepare for Siding Install By Planning Fastener Schedule.
Properly installed board and batten siding is secure but free to expand and contract naturally. When installing, place fasteners in a manner that will not significantly limit the natural movement of the siding boards.
In general, boards should be fastened near the center of their widths while the edges of the fastened boards are allowed to move. This style of fastening boards may seem contrary to traditional methods of fastened boards, with fasteners placed close to the edges of the material.
The beauty of the board and batten system comes from the coordination of the center fastened boards and the securing overlying battens at the boards edges. The system is secure, yet still allows movement.
– boards less than 10″ wide: use a single fastener placed at the center of the board at the top and bottom edges and every 2′ along the length of the board
– boards 10″ or wider: use two fasteners placed at the “middle thirds” position of the board at the top and bottom edges and every 2′ along the length of the board
(see below diagram below)
– battens both 3″ and 4″ wide: use a single fastener placed in the center of the board at the top and bottom edges and every 2′ along the length of the board (matches pattern of boards)
– battens should not be fastened to the boards directly, but to the underlying studs or cladding between the board gaps allowing the board edges to move freely under the battens.
-batten fasteners should pass between the boards through the gap between them and should not penetrate or restrict the movement of the board it is installed over.
Prior to installing the boards (and battens), I recommend predrilling the pilot holes for your fasteners. Predrilling is a good idea even if you plan on using nails. A small pilot hole will help you avoid splits in your boards and help keep your fasteners in line and straight.
To create consistent pilot holes between boards, I made a few drill jigs using spare pieces of siding material.
After drilling the pilot holes, I preinstalled the fasteners (screws in my case) in the holes, making it very easy to fasten the boards and battens once on the wall.
- Replace sheathing, Weather Resistant Barrier and Add Rainscreen System (Optional).
If you plan to replace your sheathing, weather resistant barrier and/or add a rainscreen air space system to your wall, prior to installing your board and batten siding, please see details in my article “How and Why to Build a Rainscreen Wall“.
This article details replacement of exterior wall sheathing, installation of a weather resistant barrier and how to add a rainscreen air space to your wall build.
Once you have a satisfactory weather resistant barrier and rainscreen detail (if using), you are ready to begin installing your board and batten siding.
- Begin Siding Install With Skirt Board (Water Table) And Drip Flashing at Base of Wall.
For my board and batten project, I used a skirt board (a.k.a. band board, water table) at the base of my siding. I used the same 1″ x 10″ cedar material for this skirt as the boards for the siding.
Prior to installing the skirt board, I beveled the bottom edge of the board using a 45-degree router bit to help direct water away from the wall. After running the router over one edge, I reprimed and repainted the routered edge. The boards were then installed as the water table at the base of the wall.
These skirt boards were installed at the base of the wall with the bottom edge (bevel sloping outward) starting just at or slightly below the level of the rim joist.
Of note, this is the same level as the insect screen installed at the bottom edge of the rainscreen mat. Once positioned correctly, fasten the boards to the wall with three fasteners every 18″.
With the skirt boards installed, set and fasten a drip edge over the skirt board. You will have options here, but I used prepainted gray metal flashing.
Set the flashing over the top edge of the skirt board and fasten using a few roofing nails set near the top edge of the flashing mater to limit water passage through nail holes. You will not need many fasteners, as the siding boards, once installed, will hold the flashing secure.
While traditional flashing techniques suggest that the top edge of flashing pieces should be under the weather-resistant barrier, with the vented rainscreen wall design, I decided to install this flashing piece on top of the rainscreen mat.
The reason I did this is to allow an uninterrupted flow of air through the rainscreen mat. If I had installed the flashing piece back to and under the asphalt felt (WRB), it would interrupt the drainage of water and flow of air through the rainscreen wall.
- Next Install The Siding Boards.
With the skirt board and top metal flashing in place, begin installing the boards of your board and batten siding.
You may start installing boards anywhere along your wall without a problem. I typically start at one corner of the wall and work across the wall. Some will begin at the edge of a window or doorway in an effort to decrease the number of difficult cuts needed.
In general horizontal board spacing should be fairly consistent, and you can cheat a bit and vary slightly to avoid awkward cuts or very narrow boards.
Start your board install with a single board. Set the board on top of the skirt board drip flashing gapped slight (1/4″ or so) above the flashing to prevent water wicking up from the drip flashing. I used a paint stir stick as a spacer and rested the board on top of the stir stick prior to leveling and fastening. After the board is set in place, use a level to plumb the board and then drive fasteners to attach to the wall. Drive fastener heads just flat to avoid fastener divots that can hold water. Remember that fasteners should penetrate into solid wood – sufficiently thick plywood or OSB sheathing or framing (blocking).
Install fasteners at least every 2′ vertically. I started with two centered screws at the base of the boards about 1 1/2″ above the bottom of the board. This starting position allowed the fasteners to penetrate the base skirt board drip flashing. I then added a pair of screws every 2′ up the board and a final pair near the top of the boards.
To keep fastener position uniform, I used a predrilled board jig as a guide for fastener holes. I predrilled the screw holes after cutting each board and preinstalled screws just into the boards prior to putting the boards on the wall. Once in place, you then can simply drive the preset screws in.
Continue installing boards along the wall, cutting them as needed to fit around windows and other obstructions.
Continue installing boards, working around windows and other obstructions. Cut boards to fit with a slight gap (1/4″ – 1/2″ or so) around windows.
Windows should be already flashed to your weather resistant barrier prior to installing the siding.
When working boards around windows and other areas requiring cutting, you can adjust your board spacing slightly to help the boards fit better or avoid some cuts.
Be sure to reseal the cut surfaces of boards before installing them. Notice the white primer added to the cut edge of the board bordering the right side of the window in the above image.
Once the boards installed, I applied a quick field coat of finish. Even with prestained material, the supplier recommends a field-applied coat of finish after installing the boards.
I could have waited until the battens were installed, but I found it much easier to use the opportunity of the flat surface of just the boards to apply a coat of finish. I used the same finish used at the factory for the prefinish; Cabot solid color acrylic stain in dark slate.
Once the battens and trim are installed, I applied an additional coat of finish to cover battens. I found a painting pad or mini roller worked well to apply finish. Notice the image below demonstrating how the field-applied finish coat covers the fasteners on the boards prior to installing battens.
- Install Top Trim (If using).
Prior to installing the battens, install any trim pieces at the top or bottom of the siding install. Also install any window trim. Battens then install between the top trim piece to just above the drip edge flashing at the base of the wall. If the batten intersects a window, the batten installs between the top trim and the window trim.
For my project, I used a horizontal trim piece at the top of the siding, but none at the bottom. The top trim piece is simply a batten turned and installed horizontally. I gapped the top of this trim piece slightly between the top edge and the bottom edge of the frieze board to provide top ventilation of my rainscreen wall.
If you are installing board and batten siding over a vented rainscreen wall, you may need to design a more elaborate trim detail at the top of your walls to protect the top ventilation from rain and other elements. My top ventilation gap was well protected by my generous 12″ overhang and did not need additional protection.
- Install Window and Door Trim.
Install the window and door casings at this time. There are countless window and door trim styles that can be used. I opted for a very basic butt-joined flush edge box casing for the windows and doors. I used 4″ x 1″ cedar material that I ordered pre-finished in white. I installed the trim pieces using trim head screws with white heads.
Prior to installing the window trim, you should have properly flashed window and door penetrations. For this project I had already flashed the windows and doors using Dupont peel-and-stick flashing tape.
See my article on building a rainscreen wall for a more detailed discussion of how to flash existing windows with flashing tape.
Keeping with the rustic, simple theme of board and batten, I used a simple square cut boxed cashing style around the windows and doors. I left a slight gap between the cashing and window frame as a caulk gap. I did not caulk the outside edge of the window cashing adjacent to the siding. Water penetration here is drained by the rainscreen wall detail.
To fasten the window and door trim, I used white trim head stainless steel screws. I used a pair of screws spaced along the boards. Once the trim boards were installed, I used color matched caulk between the window frame and trim edge and at the cut edge seems of the trim boards.
- Install Battens.
With the boards and trim pieces installed, it’s time to install the battens. When fastening the battens use a row of single centered fasteners that pass through the gaps between the boards and do not penetrate the boards. These fasteners will need to be long enough to pass 1 – 1 1/2″ into framing or the thickness of your sheathing + 1/4″ if using screws.
For my project, I predrilled and installed screws into the battens. These preinstalled screws were preinstalled 1/2″ or so through the back of the battens to make it easier to position the fasteners in the board gaps and install the battens.
At the bottom of the battens, consider beveling the bottom edge to help shed water away from the wall. I did this using my compound miter saw when cutting the battens. After cutting the battens, remember to reseal the cut ends with primer.
Cut batten lengths to fit from the bottom edge of the top trim piece to flush with the bottom of the boards installed above the skirt board drip flashing.
When measuring batten length, keep in mind the bottom bevel of the batten, which will lengthen the batten by the amount of bevel you plan to add (I beveled my batten bottom edge 15 degrees). Once battens are cut to length, install them over the gaps between the installed boards. Fasteners should pass between boards passing through the board spaces without passing through boards. Use a level to plumb battens then drive fasteners to secure. Make sure the battens sufficiently cover the board edges on either side of the battens prior to fastening. Drive fasteners to just bring fastener heads flush with the batten surface to maximize hold and help avoid water pooling in fastener divots.
Continue installing battens. When installing battens, do not caulk the lateral edges of the battens. The battens should be snug against the boards, but allow the boards to move under the batten in response to changes in humidity and temperature.
- Install Corner Trim Pieces.
Finally, finish the outside corners with trim pieces. For these corner boards, I used the same trim material (1″ x 4″ cedar) that I used for the windows.
Install the corner boards butt-joined and fastened with screws.
- Apply Final Field Coat Of Finish.
Although I purchased prefinished cedar for my board and batten siding project, the supplier of the prefinished material recommended applying a final field coat of finish.
As I noted above, I applied a rolled on finish coat just after installing the boards. This coat went on very easily as the boards have a finish already applied that matches the color of this field coat. One big advantage of applying a field coat is the covering and sealing of fasteners. This was especially beneficial in covering the green deck screws I chose for this project.
After the battens and the rest of the trim are installed, Apply another field coat of finish, mainly to cover the battens and trim. I did carry this finish onto the boards to ensure good coverage of the outside corner of the batten against the boards.
- Enjoy Your New Siding.
Board and Batten Siding Install Follow up
The siding was installed during the fall of 2011.
Update March, 2015
As of this year, 2015, the siding has been in service for 3 1/2 years. Other than needing the occasional cleaning with a stiff broom to remove cob webs and pine needles, our siding has been maintenance free. The siding still looks like we just put it up. The finish has no signs of age and has not chipped, peeled or failed in any way.
I have also not had any issues with the installed siding boards. None of the boards have cracked, warped or otherwise misbehaved. There has been no issues with water or signs of moisture issues on the exterior or interior of our cabin – it seems as if the combination of the vented rainscreen wall and the cedar board and batten siding are a perfect match. If I had to do it again, I would not do anything differently. I am very pleased with our board and batten siding!
Update October 2018
OK, its been 7 years! The siding is still going strong with no issues. No paint chips, cracks or peeling. No board cracks. No fastener failures. It really still looks like I just put it up. The rough surface of the cedar boards is loved by spiders and other caccoon-building insects. But other than the need for cleaning, the siding and the Cabot finish has held up incredibly well, especially considering the weather conditions in Northern Minnesota – hot humid summers, windy, rainy springs and falls and bitterly cold winters.
Here are a few recent photos: